my running adventures – barefoot or otherwise
I’d been eyeing a run up to the other side of the River Trent for some time, but had never had the time to research a route, run for the length I’d need, or feel like I had the endurance to actually do it, until last weekend.
I’d been casting my eye over Google maps to find nearest routes across the Trent that would give me a decent amount of running on the other side before I’d have to turn around and come back. Studying maps is something I really enjoy doing, perhaps a guilty pleasure as I don’t really talk about it, or do it as much as I’d like, and I enjoyed plotting my route. I reckoned on it taking me about 14 miles in distance, as long as I didn’t get lost!
I found a route, which meant running for 4 miles before I got to cross the river. This would give me 3 miles of running on the other side of the river before I’d have to turn back.
To get this run in before a) we needed to start getting ready for church and b) before my wife started to get anxious about not having enough time for a), I rose early at 5:50am. Yes, I can confirm that there is such a time of day! On this particular morning though, the weather wasn’t enticing me outside. It was wet rain. The kind that slowly and subtley soaks you while giving you the sense that it isn’t really raining at all.
I left the house at 6:15am and trotted off down towards Beeston, where I’d planned to cross the canal and head over to the river path. On getting to the Attenborough Nature Reserve turn off though, I decided to pursue that course instead. This meant I’d follow the river’s course for longer and also give me an opportunity to check if I could get access through Beeston Marina at this shady time of the morning.
Side note: On a previous, much shorter run I’d done in preparation for the Robin Hood marathon back in September, I’d approached the Marina from the other side and it had a black gate locked shut across the entrance, meaning I had to take a long detour up through Beeston and then back down again on to the river’s path.
After looking outside before I set off, I’d decided that I’d run in my waterproof cycling jacket as I was going out for so long. I also took a good portion of Tesco jelly babies with me to reward my efforts on the run, for psychological as much as physical reasons.
The first four miles went steadily, at under 7 minutes a mile. As I approached the Trent along the gravel path through the Nature Reserve, the salty, musty smell of a nearby water course filled my nostrils. The interesting thing was that as I approached Beeston Marina, I got that sinking feeling that I’d have to re-route my run as I noticed the same black, secure-looking gate I’d seen at the other end of the marina on a previous thwarted attempt to get through.
However, as I got closer, I saw that on one side, there was a very discreet opening to allow people to bypass the gate by walking. This gave me a surge of relief and adrenalin. It also highlighted to me one of the things I love about getting out and about on my two legs – the opportunity to satisfy your curiosity when an avenue of exploration presents itself.
As I mounted the A453 running over the river, I did have the feeling that I’d barely begun my run, that there was a long way to go and that I was entering unknown territory!
The path along the Trent was not wide on the other side and there were puddles riddling the path. However, at this point, I’d only come across one other person so far (passing them coming the other way along the bridge I’d just crossed) so it didn’t matter.
The rain had by now soaked my head and the gunk I use to style my hair (Fish product, if you wondered) was starting to collect in diluted form on my brow. As I wiped it away I looked up to see a signpost giving me two options for getting to the same place, Barton-in-Fabis, which was my goal for the run before I was going to turn back. I took the more interesting-looking route, which meant I was going along the top of a ridge, rather than continuing along the river’s path.
I was pleased with my decision almost immediately. I’d chosen the bridleway which was essentially a beautiful narrow, prolonged grassed area that eventually led onto a trail I could follow which later on met up with the riverside path. What wasn’t so beautiful was the footing…persistent rain over the preceding three days had left the ground waterlogged and so I was thankful I’d erred on the side of caution and chosen to do this run in my trail shoes, rather than my minimalist Saucony Fiya running shoes.
By the time I got to the top of the ridge, I had satisfying views back over to the ‘right’ side of the Trent and had a pang of ‘Gosh, I’ve got to run all the way back over there!’
I pressed on despite this mile being a particularly slow 10:21, some of which was due to me trying to satisfy my curiosity again slightly later on by trying to run up a steep hill and failing miserably. I also fell over at the bottom of the hill and nearly infected my stash of jelly babies with questionable mud when I put my hands down to save my front teeth being bashed out. I did laugh at myself though and at the fun I was having. Should a grown man still be giggling like a little boy when going out for a run? I think so!
A couple of miles later, my speed again took a turn for the worse as I decided it’d be a good idea to again attempt to go off-trail and climb a hill. Why? I wanted to see what was at the top. And I did actually have to climb, rather than jog as the grade was 10.2% at one point and there was little vegetation to be grabbing hold of.
At the top, I got a murky view of a lot of sky, the foreboding clouds of fumes pumping out of the Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station and conveniently for me, a host of little, well-worn trails to follow. I had my bearings as I knew the A453 was right there following my route back to the bridge I’d crossed over the Trent just a few miles previously.
Sadly, I didn’t make it to Barton-in-Fabis this time. I was close, but I would’ve been seriously late home if I’d made it there.
So, pleased with my change to my route, I now just had to follow some of these trails other runners had obviously left me to get me back to my riverside path or the bridge. I am stupid. These were not trails left by runners, but rather rabbit runs that had been carefully honed and created over many a terrified journey by floppy-eared creatures over who knows how many years and decades! As this dawned on me, I got a sinking feeling that I might need to retrace my steps back down the crazy ascent I’d negotiated (in which I’d picked up a number of nettle stings on my hands). Ever the optimist though, I carried on yo-yoing between being really close to the main road into the city from this direction and a bit closer to the riverside path, albeit above it and with no sign of how to join it again!
I tried not to panic, not least for my own safety as I had visions of being welcomed home with a few sharp (and well-deserved) words of frustration with me. As such, I tried to keep my momentum going at what was now creeping over 7 minute miles on average.
I found a small road that seemed to head in the direction I wanted and I took it. Halfway through mile 9 I was back on my original route along the river, much to my relief. However, I was fully aware that I’d lost time with my curiosity-fuelled forays at mile 6 and 8 and still had at least 4 and a half miles left to run before I’d be home. And I felt tired.
A list of my per mile speeds are as follows:
6:57, 6:57, 6:49, 6:43, 7:27, 10:21, 7:59, 9:36, 7:53, 6:59, 6:55, 7:11, 7:10, 7:28, 7:21.
So, all in all, my average speed was 7:35 per mile and I ran for 1:55:43.
The last mile or so was tough. I was shattered from my workout and from the worries I’d given myself about getting lost, not finding my way back to the river and not getting home in a good time for church. I was pleased though that I managed to make it up the tiny, but still important final ‘hump’ of Hall Drive that mocks me whenever I try to run or cycle up it at the end of a run. I stubbornly make a point of not stopping at the bottom of it, but running up the pesky little thing just to prove I have a bit of grit between my teeth. It might be a small thing, but I think if you can force yourself to do the hard thing even if it doesn’t really matter, it’ll stand you in good stead in future, whether psychologically, or physically.
This is also why I rarely finish a run within 0.2 miles of a mile marker and choose instead to run that bit further, or run a local lap of a park, just to finish the other side of the marker. Perhaps a silly eccentricity, but it seems important to me.
Does anyone else ‘get’ this?!
I was pleased with my time bearing in mind my two crazily slow miles and it stands me in good stead for this coming Sunday (31st March) where I’ll be running in an Ely to Cambridge race over 16.5 miles of canal toepath-style terrain and road surfaces. The winning time last year for it was 1 hour 47 minutes and I reckon as it’s flat, and if there isn’t a crazy wind, I should be able to complete it in a similar time. I guess I’ll have to see what the course is like, what the competition is like and what the conditions of the terrain and weather are as to my time.
Wish me luck!
A race account is likely to be my next entry, some time after next Sunday. Have a great week everyone!